As 2021 draws to a close, we have asked the ELi reporting team to reflect on the question of which stories that they wrote this year were the most meaningful and important to them. The stories they’ve chosen cover a range of topics, from public health for seniors, to City finances, to preparing for the arrival of refugees from Afghanistan, to experiences of local flooding.
We present to you our reporters’ picks for 2021 in the order in which they were published.
1. ELi’s Managing Editor and all-around reporter Emily Joan Elliott picks:
By Emily Joan Elliott, published on February 11, 2021
When I took a look back at my reporting for 2021, I could hardly believe that I wrote this story this year. This article looked at the confusion and uncertainty that East Lansing residents aged 65 and older faced in trying to secure appointments for their first Covid-19 vaccines. Although the vaccination landscape has changed dramatically – now, many individuals are receiving third-shot boosters without terribly long waits for appointments – the initial days of the vaccine rollout were confusing and stressful. I was proud that my reporting provided a place for community members to have their voices heard, and in my reporting, I was able to answer some questions that seniors had. I also felt sympathy for the Ingham County Health Department, which had been inundated with calls and had its systems crash when over 40,000 people registered their interest in receiving a vaccine in one day. This reporting also formed the basis of some of my future public health reporting, including creating a running list of vaccination sites in our area. This is the kind of service journalism that makes me proud to lead ELi’s editing and reporting team.
2. ELi Reporter, Graduate of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program, and ELi Board member Adan Tomas Quan chooses:
By Adan Tomas Quan, published on June 30, 2021
I would say this story was the most meaningful to me this year because it was just overall a fun and positive piece to write. It was so nice to meet someone new and interesting and to actually learn about the motivation behind an art installation. And it was fun to take a break from writing more surface-level, informational stories, and to instead write something that delves into the backstory of a topic and what it means to the people involved.
3. ELi Social Media Manager and Reporter Heather Brothers picks:
By Heather Brothers, published on June 11, 2021
I chose this article because of what it represents to me as a reporter – one who often reports on policing in East Lansing. I watched and reported on the Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission over the entire course of its tenure, so I felt personally proud to watch them present the results of their collaborative work to City Council. The forming of the Oversight Commission is a milestone for the City, and I felt like I was a part of it in some small way by bringing news of their discussions and deliberations to the public.
4. ELi Reporter and MSU Journalism student Jack Timothy Harrison selects:
By Jack Timothy Harrison, published July 29, 2021
I really enjoyed writing this story because it was great to learn about the archery program in East Lansing Public Schools and how it engages students from the elementary level through the high school level. Marble physical education teacher Casey Bain, who directs the program, has so much passion for the program and cares for the students. The feature story reflects her commitment to the team and the hard work of the students. I was glad to share the success of the program with the community.
5. ELi reporter Christopher A. Wardell chooses:
By Christopher A. Wardell, published on Sept. 16, 2021
I think this was my favorite story I wrote this past year. It was a break from my normal arts and entertainment beat, and I felt like I was giving back to the community by providing valuable information and resources. It’s very important to me to give back, and I’m all about helping thy neighbor no matter who that neighbor is, what color they are, or where they’re from. Also, the Refugee Development Center’s Director Erika Brown-Binion is a neighbor of mine!
6. Veteran ELi City Desk reporter and podcast producer Andrew Graham selects:
By Andrew Graham, published on Oct. 4, 2021
I’ve known these people for a long time, and they’ve known me. One set of homeowners in this story now live in the house that my paternal grandparents lived in until my grandfather’s passing in 2014. So, when I learned that some of my grandparents’ former neighbors had their basements flooded with sewage and stormwater in earlier August like so many other locals, I got in touch. Growing up, I didn’t think (or know) that one day I would come back to that block as an adult and do something for these folks in this way, but it certainly means a lot that I got to write this story.
7. New ELi reporter Al Hargrave picks:
By Al Hargrave, published on Oct. 13, 2021
This may appear to be an inconsequential piece in comparison to other topics that ELi covers, but to me, this article marks the beginning of my career with ELi. When I moved to East Lansing recently, I came with a desire to dive into the community and really get to know the people around me. Since becoming a reporter for ELi, not only have I begun achieving that goal, I’ve also come to learn some inner-workings of a city government, school district, and arts culture, as well as meet an array of local business people while helping plan a fundraiser. Most of what I sought in my job hunt upon moving to East Lansing has not only been achieved, but surpassed by degrees I did not imagine. I am incredibly grateful for ELi and the trust they have put in me every step of the way, and I expect to continue being dazzled with new information and responsibilities, and I can’t wait!
8. Long-time ELi Arts and Cultures reporter Sarah Spohn selects:
By Sarah Spohn, published on Nov. 26, 2021
Some of my favorite reporting for ELi comes in the form of covering small businesses. Although I’m not a business owner, I want local entrepreneurs to know I support them. I like to shop small and spend locally, supporting my neighbors and talented friends who make their own art or who own their own coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. This year, more than ever, spending locally seems like THE THING to do, considering how small business owners had to navigate waters they were in no way prepped for due to the pandemic. Many were thrown into the world of online orders, curbside pickup, and deliveries. And many of them really stepped up and showed up. Going on late-night, tipsy, Amazon shopping spree will make me feel guilty 10/10 times, but swinging by a local boutique to get a Christmas gift for a pal never makes me feel bad. What a magical feeling! Plus, the customer service at small businesses is usually unrivaled. I love shopping small, and I want these and other locally-owned businesses to remain in our community for decades to come.
9. Publisher and Executive Director Alice Dreger selects:
By Alice Dreger and Andrew Graham, published on December 13, 2021
I’ve written about 150 articles for ELi’s readers this year, so it’s really hard for me to pick a favorite. But I’m picking this recent one, which I had the pleasure of co-reporting with ELi’s City Desk reporter and East Lansing Insider host Andrew Graham, for a few reasons. For one, I really love working with Andrew on complex stories. Also, its the kind of reporting only ELi brings: longitudinal and truly in-depth, going beyond the external consultants’ presentations to Council to pull out the harder truths. It also represents to me a classic case of ELi teamwork: Andrew and I benefited in this work from working on pensions analyses with Chris Root and Anne Hill, two members of our Community Advisory Board who have been hugely helpful to us. Finally, I’ll admit I’m picking it because we happened to publish it during the Comcast outage, so a lot of readers who would have seen it missed it, and I’m hoping by picking this, they’ll go look at it and see what we found. Some of what we found really surprised us!
10. Reporter and Graduate of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program Amalia Medina chooses:
By Amalia Medina, published Dec. 28, 2021
My most meaningful story of 2021 was one I recently wrote about the effort by local churches to begin faith-based reparations in this community. This article was the most interesting to me because it seems challenging to determine how to properly carry out reparations, so learning and writing about community groups that are trying to determine a possible course of action was interesting and inspiring in terms of their civic engagement. I also got to interview several people who all had interesting ideas and perspectives, which was great.
Did you appreciate all the reporting that the ELi team brought you in 2021? Make sure we can keep it coming in 2022 by supporting ELi today!